Drainage & Water Control

Manitoba has launched an amended Water Rights Regulation that reduces red tape for lower-risk, lower-impact drainage and water retention works, focusses regulatory review on higher-impact, higher-risk projects, and increases protection for Manitoba’s wetlands.  The shift toward streamlined drainage authorizations and no net loss of wetlands will support the sustainable management of water in Manitoba.

What are Water Control Works and Drainage?
What are Water Control Works?

Water Control Works are defined according to The Water Rights Act as any dyke, dam, surface or subsurface drain, drainage, improved natural waterway, canal, tunnel, bridge, culvert borehole or contrivance for carrying or conducting water that:

  • Temporarily or permanently alters or may alter the flow or level of water, including but not limited to water in a water body, by any means, including drainage, or
  • Changes or may change the location or direction of flow of water, including but not limited to water in a water body, by any means, including drainage.
What is drainage?

A drain (regardless of size) is a type of Water Control Works defined by The Water Rights Act.

Drainage is the natural or constructed method of moving surface and subsurface water from one area to another.  In Manitoba, drainage works may be constructed to enhance agricultural production, to support urban and rural development or to protect infrastructure such as roads or railways.

Unauthorized drainage may negatively impact another person’s property either upstream or downstream.  Following the required authorization process ensures that upstream and downstream interests are considered for the collective good of the landscape and the watershed.

How to Apply

Lower-risk/lower-impact drainage and water retention works can be registered as opposed to licensed.  Projects submitted for registration must meet all requirements.  Please refer to ‘what is a registrable project’ for further information. Projects that cannot be registered may be eligible to receive authorization through a licence.     

To apply for authorization to construct Water Control Works, an application including all required documentation must be completed.  Remittance of the appropriate application fee is also required at the time of application.  Submission of applications using the online Water Licensing Portal is strongly encouraged for faster service delivery times.  If you are unable to submit the application using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca for an alternate format.

How to create a user account
This video will walk you through how to create a new user account for the Water Licensing Portal. In order to log in to your portal account, you need a valid log in ID.  If you know you already have applications or licences with the Drainage and Water Rights Licensing Branch, contact us at drainage@gov.mb.ca

How to apply for a Water Control Work Registration Certificate
This video will walk you through how to apply for a new Water Control Works Registration Certificate using the Water Licensing Portal. Registration Certificates can be issued for specific types of Water Control Works projects as referenced in the Water Rights Regulation section 10 through section 21. Project applications submitted through this portal and approved by the Registrar will receive a Registration Certificate within 14 calendar days.

How to apply for a Water Control Works Licence
This video will walk you through how to apply for a new Water Control Works Licence using the Water Licensing Portal.

Please refer to the list of reminders as part of the application process to ensure you submit all required documentation. 

A maximum of one section of land (under the same ownership) OR a contiguous project (on lands under the same ownership) can be submitted on a single application. For example, if you are applying for water control works on three different (non-contiguous) sections, three separate applications with three application fees are required.

Required Documents

Landowner and Agency Consent (Approvals) Requirements

Depending on the scope and type of project, landowner and/or agency consent (approval) may be required prior to licensing or registration of Water Control Works.  Approval requirements vary with project scope and location, and are intended to protect the interests of other parties. The following list serves as a guide:

  • Adjacent Landowner (downstream or upstream)
    For all new or altered water control works that will outlet onto someone else’s land, written approval must be obtained prior to the works being undertaken.  Approval must be provided at the time of application. A consent form is available here or The applicant can provide a separate consent letter signed by Land Title Holder or a person with Power of Attorney.
    Water that will be impounded (for example, for small dams or dykes) can affect immediate upstream neighbouring landowner(s) – written consent(s) must also be obtained for these water control works.
  • Leased Land (Rented)
    A person leasing land can apply for a Licence or Registration for water control works. A consent form must be signed by the registered owner, or land title holder, of the land indicating they agree and consent to the drainage works to be licensed and undertaken on their behalf.  This process does not apply to leased Crown Land.
  • Crown Lands
    For drainage works that outlet into, or are proposed to be on property under Crown Lands jurisdiction, written approval is required from the Sustainable Development - Crown Lands Manager. This consent needs to be provided with the drainage application.
  • Conservation District
    If the drainage works outlet into a Conservation District drain, approval from the Conservation District is required.
  • Manitoba Infrastructure Water Control (Provincial Waterway authority)
    For any drainage work to be undertaken within the Provincial Waterway right-of-way, written consent from Manitoba Infrastructure - Water Management and Structures Division may be required.
  • Manitoba Infrastructure (Highways)
    For drainage works that outlet into the highway network right-of-way, written consent from the Manitoba Infrastructure - Regional Technical Services Engineer or designate may be required.  This consent needs to be provided with the drainage application form.
  • Municipality
    Municipal approval may be required depending on your municipal government.  Please contact your municipal government to obtain sign off requirements prior to submitting your application.  Municipal contact information is available here - https://www.gov.mb.ca/mr/contactus/pubs/mod.pdf

For more information contact your local Water Resource Officer or email drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer

The Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer can be used to identify the location of Water Control Works and Water Use authorizations issued under the Water Rights Act. Using the Map Viewer does not require a Water Licensing Portal ID.

Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer

Wetlands
What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas, usually low lying, where the land is saturated by water long enough to support aquatic plants and wildlife for part of their lifecycle. Wetlands are also characterized by hydric soils and biological and chemical processes that differentiate them from the surrounding areas.  Most wetlands go dry occasionally.  Seasonally and annually fluctuating water levels is one of the characteristics of wetlands.

Wetlands provide many benefits including mitigating floods and drought, improving water quality, supporting wildlife and fish habitat, and sequestering carbon. Manitoba has enshrined a commitment to no-net-loss of wetlands benefits in The Water Rights Act.

Can I drain a wetland on my property?

Under The Water Rights Act and the Water Rights Regulation, Class 3 (seasonal) wetlands are eligible for drainage through authorization by license.  A proponent must submit a Landowner Mitigation Form with their application demonstrating their use of the mitigation process including how all options to avoid and minimize impacts to the wetland have been considered.  Any proposed loss of wetland benefits must be offset by compensation for lost acres of wetlands as required by The Water Rights Act and the Water Rights Regulation as set out in Schedule D.

Under normal circumstances, a water rights license will not be issued for the drainage of Class 4 (semi-permanent), and 5 (permanent) wetlands. 

Class 1 and 2 wetlands are eligible for drainage through registration.  Authorization of the proposed water control works can follow the registration process (assuming all other requirements are met).

More information on requirements for water control works involving wetlands is available through the online Water Licensing Portal.  Or you can contact the Drainage and Water Control Works Section at drainage@gov.mb.ca for more information.    

How do I know what class my wetland is?

The presence or absence of water does not determine the class of a wetland. Most wetlands go dry occasionally and the absence of water does not mean that the area is no longer a wetland or that the class of the wetland has changed. The Stewart and Kantrud marsh classification system is the standard used in administering The Water Rights Act.   The Stewart and Kantrud system identifies 5 classes of wetlands. The class is determined by the length of time that the wetland holds surface water in a year of average moisture conditions and the associated vegetation and soils. 

 

Length of Water Retention

Type of Vegetation

Soil Type

Class 1
Ephemeral

one week or less

Low prairie species such as Kentucky bluegrass, goldenrod, forbes

 

Class 2
Temporary

One week to one month

Wetland species such as fine stemmed grasses, sedges and forbs

 

Class 3 Seasonal

One month to three months, often dry by mid-June but may hold water for the entire year

Shallow marsh vegetation such as emergent wetland grasses, sedges and rushes

Gleysolic soils

Class 4
Semi-permanent

More than three months, hold some water year round under wetter conditions but go dry in below average years

Marsh vegetation and submerged aquatic vegetation such as cattails, bulrushes and pond weeds in the central area of the wetland

Gleysolic soils

Class 5
Permanent

Year round in average years with permanent open water in the central areas, but may go dry in years with well below average moisture conditions.

Central area is open water free of vegetation surrounded be a zone of submerged aquatic vegetation such as cattails, bulrushes and pond weeds

Gleysolic soils

Who can help me determine the class and size of my wetland?

The size of the wetland is determined by the extent of wetland vegetation and the edge of the natural prairie.  The size of a wetland is not determined by the extent of water which can vary from year to year.

Staff in Sustainable Development can help you to determine the class and size of your wetland.  Please contact the department at drainage@gov.mb.ca for assistance. 

There are a number of Manitoba-based agencies with expertise in wetland identification and classification including

Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Delta Waterfowl
Native Plant Solutions
Your local conservation district

Complaints and Enforcement

Complaints

How to file a complaint

Enforcement

It is an offence under The Water Rights Act to carry out the following activities:

  • construct, maintain, operate or use water control works without authority; or
  • control water or construct, establish, operate, or maintain any water control works, unless he or she holds a valid licence or registration certificate to do so.

The Role of Officers

Manitoba Water Resource Officers are responsible for issuing licences and ensuring compliance of all water control works involving surface water pursuant to The Water Rights Act.

Officers respond to complaints and reports of unauthorized water control works, as well as inspect or investigate alleged offences.  Officers will determine if works are contrary to the law and assess what impacts have occurred to affect natural resources, real estate, infrastructure and other lands.

If an offence has been committed, charges may be laid against the offending individual(s) and/or landowner(s).  Depending on severity of the impacts and the history of the accused, he or she may be given an opportunity to pay a set fine OR be given a mandatory appearance date to attend Provincial Court where a judge will determine the penalty for the offence(s).

Anyone convicted of an offence is responsible to ensure remedial work is conducted to bring the work into compliance with The Water Rights Act.  Failing to do so may result in further charges and remedial work may be required by Manitoba through the issuance of an ‘Order’.  The offender will be responsible to complete the required work.  If they fail to comply by the deadline, Manitoba will complete the work on their behalf and the offender will be invoiced for the cost of the work and face possible additional charges.

Fines & Penalties

Penalties for a corporation are by way of fines not more than $500,000.00.  Penalties for an individual are by way of fines not more than $50,000.00.  An individual or director/officer of a corporation may also be subject to imprisonment for up to three months.

Appeals

Appeals regarding charges laid must be handled through the Provincial Court.  Appeals of any order or decision of the minister may be directed to the Manitoba Municipal Board within 30 days of the order or decision.

Frequently Asked Questions
General

Q: When do I need authorization for Water Control Works under The Water Rights Act?
A: Authorization is required for any water control work (including drainage). For more information, see the ‘How to apply’ section of this web site.

Q: What are water control works?
A: Water control works are defined under The Water Rights Act as any dyke, dam, surface or subsurface drain, drainage, improved natural waterway, canal, tunnel, bridge, culvert borehole or contrivance for carrying or conducting water, that

  • temporarily or permanently alters or may alter the flow or level of water, including but not limited to water in a water body, by any means, including drainage, or
  • changes or may change the location or direction of flow of water, including but not limited to water in a water body, by any means, including drainage;

Q: What rights do I have as a licencee/registrant?
A: Under The Water Rights Act, the holder of a water rights licence or registration certificate for Water Control Works is provided with the right to:

  • construct, maintain and operate works
  • receive written notice from the Drainage & Water Control Works Section prior to cancellation or suspension of a water rights licence or registration certificate.

Q: What are my obligations to maintain my Water Control Works authorization in good standing?
A: A licencee/registrant must construct the water control works as prescribed in the conditions of the authorization. Non-compliance with the conditions of the licence/registration certificate may cause the authorization to be cancelled and may be subject to further enforcement that may result in monetary fines and additional required works. A licencee/registrant must notify the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca about changes to water control works authorized by existing licenses/registration certificates, mailing address changes or if the land to which the licence/registration certificate applies is sold or subdivided.

Q: Am I held responsible for the authorized works?
A: A licencee/registrant is responsible for damage resulting from works constructed, operated or maintained, or from a defect, insufficiency or failure of the works, whether the licence/registration certificate is in good standing, abandoned, suspended or cancelled.

Q: What is tile drainage?
A: In agriculture, tile drainage is a type of drainage system that removes excess water from the soil below the surface by means of installing subsurface perforated tiles.

Water Resource Officers

Q: Who is the local Water Resource Officer in my area?
A: Refer to Water Resource Officer coverage map under the ‘Contact Us’ section.

Q: Do Water Resource Officers have the right to access my land?
A: Yes, subject to the provisions of The Water Rights Act, Water Resources Officers are authorized by the minister to enter any land to inspect any works or water control works constructed or established, or being constructed, established or maintained, by a licencee or permit holder. Water Resources Officers may also enter land to investigate a suspected or alleged contravention of this act or the regulations.

Water Licensing Portal

Q: I forgot my user ID.  How do I access the Water Licensing Portal?
A: If you require assistance, contact the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Q: I forgot my password. Can I obtain a new one? 
A: Once you have entered the water licensing portal, you may click ‘Forgot your password?’ and a new password will be emailed to you immediately.

Q: How can I pay online using the Water Licensing Portal?
A: The Water Licensing Portal only accepts Visa or Mastercard.

Q: Can I apply online but pay in person?
A: No, the Water Licensing Portal requires payment online at the time of application.

Q: Assuming I have previously received authorization under The Water Rights Act, how do I log into my account to see existing projects if I have never signed up for the Water Licensing Portal?
A: We have created a log in ID for previous project proponents. Contact us at drainage@gov.mb.ca and we will send you the log in ID for your account.

Q: Is there a map showing the location and status of previous authorizations on the landscape?
A: Yes, please check the public Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer.

Q: Can I complete my application partially and then come back to finish it a later date?
A: No, you must complete the application including payment during one session. Partially complete applications will be lost.

Q: How will I know if my application was successfully submitted?
A: You will receive an acknowledgement email from the Registrar and a payment confirmation email from Moneris.

Q: I missed adding information to my application.  How do I add additional information to my file once I have submitted my application? 
A: You can use the Water Licensing Portal to submit correspondence or additional information once you have submitted your application. 

Registrable Projects

Q: What types of projects can be registered?
A: Use the resource, ‘What is a registrable project’ to determine if your project can be registered.

Q: What happens if my project cannot be registered?
A: Drainage projects that cannot be registered may be eligible to receive authorization through a Water Control Works Licence. 

Application Fees

Q: How much is a Water Control Works Licence?
A: The non-refundable application fee for a Water Control Works Licence is $500.00.  Payment is required at the time of application. 

Q: How much is a Water Control Works Registration Certificate?
A: The non-refundable application fee for a Water Control Works Registration Certificate is $100.00.  Payment is required at the time of application. 

Authorization Timelines

Q: How long before I receive a Water Control Works Licence?
A: Applications are processed in the order they are submitted.  The length of time prior to receiving a licence will largely depend on the number of applications awaiting processing, the complexity of your project and whether or not all information is included with your submission.  You may check the status of your application on the Water Licensing Portal

Q: My project is eligible for registration.  How long does it take to obtain a registration certificate for my Water Control Work project?
A: If you apply online, meet all the criteria, and provide all the required documentation you will receive a registration certificate authorizing the works within 14 days. Projects submitted for registration that do not meet each of these requirements may not be processed within that timeframe. If you are unable to use the Water Licensing Portal and submit your registration application using an alternate format, your registration certificate will be sent within 14 days of department staff entering your information into the Water Licensing Portal.

Q: Can I begin construction 14 days after I submit my application for a registrable project?
A: You must receive your registration certificate prior to proceeding with construction.

Q: How do I find out if my application received authorization?
A:: You will receive an email (if provided with the application) with your licence or registration certificate.  If an email is not provided, you will receive your authorization through Canada Post.

Q: If I am unable to use the Water Licensing Portal and used an alternate format for my application, how do I know my application was received?
A: When your application is processed you will receive a confirmation letter or email with your receipt of payment.

Q: How do I determine the status of my application?
A: You can check the status of your application on the Water Licensing Portal.

Wetlands

Q: What if I used the wetland classification key and I am still unsure of the classification of the wetland that could be impacted by my proposed Water Control Work?
A: Your local Water Resource Officer can provide assistance.  Please refer to the Water Resource Officer Area map under the ‘Contact Us’ section.

Q: What happens if I classified my wetland incorrectly?
A: If you are uncertain about the classification of a wetland, please contact your local Water Resource Officer.  Refer to the Water Resource Officer Area map under the ‘Contact Us’ section.

Q: Can I apply for a licence to regulate water levels on Class 3, 4 or 5 wetlands?
A: A water rights licence may be issued to regulate water levels of Class 3, 4 or 5 wetlands for the purposes of mitigating excess moisture during extreme wet conditions.  However, the works cannot alter a Class 3, 4, or 5 wetland meaning it cannot change the natural boundary of the wetland by reducing its area and it cannot result in the reduction of the class of the wetland.

Q: When do I use the Landowner Mitigation form?
A: It is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate how the mitigation process of avoidance, minimization and compensation has been followed prior to applying for a drainage license. If an applicant is proposing drainage of any kind for a class 3 wetland, the Landowner Mitigation form should be uploaded during the ‘add attachments’ section of the Water Licensing Portal.

Q: What is an approved service provider?
A: An approved service provider is a person or organization that has been approved by the minster to perform wetland restoration or enhancement projects on behalf of the proponent.  Contact the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca for more information on approved service providers.

Alternate Formats/ Assistance

Q: Can I apply using an alternate format?
A: You may request an alternate format by contacting the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Q: I’m having difficulties completing my application.  How can I obtain further assistance?
A: If you require assistance, please contact the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Authorization Process

Q: Can I still apply for authorization if I am the lessee or the renter of property?
A: Yes.  However you must have all contact information and written consent from the legal land title holder included with the application when it is submitted.

Q: I have more than one project. Can I apply for both projects at the same time?
A: A maximum of one section (under the same ownership) OR a contiguous project (on lands under the same ownership) can be submitted on a single application.  For example, if you are applying for water control works on three different (non-contiguous) sections, three separate applications with three application fees are required.

Q: I have two projects on the same section; one is registrable and one is licensable.  Can I apply for both projects together?
A:If all drainage works link together (e.g. are contiguous (sharing a common border) and within the same watershed) you may apply on one application but the application must be for a licence (not a registration certificate).  If you want to apply for registration certificate, you must apply for your registerable works separately.

Q: I wish to conduct maintenance on my existing drain.  Do I need to seek authorization? 
A: If your project has been authorized (by license or registration certificate), you can conduct maintenance to return the project to the original specifications.  If the project has not yet received authorization, maintenance work cannot be conducted until you have received authorization.  Please submit an application seeking authorization by using the Water Licensing Portal

Q: I have a drain on my property.  How do I determine if it has already been authorized?
A: You can search for previously authorized projects through the Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer.  Alternatively, you may contact your local Water Resource Officer or the Registrar at drainage@gov.mb.ca to learn more about previously licensed or registered works.

Q: I just bought land – how do I find out if there is an existing authorization on it?
A: Contact us by emailing drainage@gov.mb.ca.  The existing authorization can be revised with the new landowner contact information.

Q: I have a drain on my property that hasn’t been licensed.  Can I register it?
A: Use the resource, ‘What is a registrable project’ to determine if your project can be registered. 

Q: Does a license or registration certificate expire? 
A: Authorizations are typically issued in perpetuity (do not expire). Authorizations may be suspended or cancelled for not following the terms and conditions of the authorization.

Consent Requirements

Q: How do I determine who I need to get consent from?
A: Refer to the ‘How to Apply’ tab for landowner and agency consent requirements for your project. 

Q: Do I require municipal sign off?
A: Municipal signoff may be required by your municipal government.  Please contact your municipal government to obtain sign off requirements for your specific project.  Municipal contact information is available here - https://www.gov.mb.ca/mr/contactus/pubs/mod.pdf    

Q: Do I need any additional regulatory approvals for my Water Control Work project?
A: Additional regulatory approvals may be required depending on the specifics of your drainage project.  For example, surface water drainage works that have the potential to impact fish habitat may require separate approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and/or an Environment Act Licence (https://www.gov.mb.ca/sd/eal/).  Approval may also be required by the local Planning District (https://www.gov.mb.ca/ia/land_use_dev/pdp.html).  Applicants are responsible for obtaining any other approvals required for their project.

Complaints

Q: How do I make a complaint about unauthorized drainage works?
A: Complaints can be submitted using the online Water Licensing Portal.  If you are unable to submit a complaint using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact the department for an alternate formats.  For more information contact your local Water Resource Officer or email drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Q: My neighbour is conducting water control works/drainage on his/her property.  How do I know if he/she has authorization?
A: You can search for authorized projects with the Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer.  Alternatively, you may contact your local Water Resource Officer or the Registrar with the legal location where the works are being undertaken at drainage@gov.mb.ca.

Q: Can a municipality or conservation district be forced to maintain a ditch by a Water Resource Officer?
A: No, ultimately the municipality or conservation district work within a pre-determined annual budget. The maintenance of ditches and drains is based on the decisions of the local council or district board. Please contact your council or district board with concerns about maintenance.

Penalties/Enforcement

Q: Can I be charged or face a penalty for undertaking water control works without authorization?
A: Yes. Subject to the provisions of The Water Rights Act, Water Resource Officers can charge the individual, landowner or contractor responsible for the construction of water control works.

Appeals

Q: I received a letter advising my application was denied. Can I appeal this decision?
A: Yes. Subject to The Water Rights Act, appeals of any order or decision may be directed to the Manitoba Municipal Board within 30 days of the order or decision.

Other

Q: Where do I find approved watershed management plans?
A: Approved integrated watershed management plans can be found at the following link - https://www.gov.mb.ca/sd/water/watershed/iwmp/index.html

Q: Do I require authorization to remove a beaver dam?
A: Removal of beaver dams is subject to department approvals but authorization is not required from the Drainage and Water Rights Licensing Branch.    Please contact your local Conservation Officer for further assistance.